FROM October 21st, 2020
Our nation’s young citizens were shot in cold blood as many of them sat on the ground singing our national anthem. They were shot by their own army, by soldiers whose job it is to protect them. And they were shot in the complete absence of members of Nigeria’s Police Force, whose job it likewise is to protect the lives and property of civilians, and who have sadly proven themselves to be under-trained, under-equipped and thus over-strained in times of crisis, incapable and unwilling to exercise the standard stewardship of crowd control.It is no secret that the peaceful protests concern the glaring impunity and militarization of the Nigeria Police Force’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad’s brutality towards young Nigerians which had reached the fever pitch of a public safety emergency, culminating in widespread reports of intimidation, harassment and extrajudicial killings – and that young people had organically risen, together, yet leaderless, to peacefully oppose this constant threat to their normal lives. In the last 24 hours, these protests were visibly disrupted in several cities by armed thugs. While the latter appeared to have the backing of the organs of state, in some instances they even killed innocent policemen. Last night, the Nigerian Army came out of its expansive barracks to ‘control’ a group of protesters on the Lekki Bridge Toll Gate, linking two of Lagos’s most exclusive residential communities. The young people had gathered peacefully behind a barrier as can be seen from all manner of media footage. The army fired live rounds not into the air but into the crowd, at close range, killing several and injuring an indeterminate number – in a flagrant contravention of the protocols of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Moreover, in so doing the commanding officer ignored the human rights of freedom of speech and assembly, and the right to protest peacefully, despite Nigeria being a signatory to the ICCPR.
My ears have rung with the mournful blare of howling sirens ever since, as ambulances contributed by private hospitals made their way, with difficulty through the curfews and against the odds, to the scene of bloodshed and death, to try to provide care, for the injured, and the murdered dying.Behind every statistic of inhumanity and injustice is a story, and behind each human being and young citizen is a family. The Nigerian flag, standing for peace, progress and unity, has been indelibly stained with the blood of our young citizens, who themselves were protesting against the SARS’s notorious record of thousands of incidents of rape, torture, un-anaesthetised testicular castrations, and extra-judicial killings, not to mention wanton acts of theft – the very crime it was established to curb. As a mother and grandmother, and I know I am not alone, I fully understand the determination of the youth movement advocating peacefully to #EndSARS and #ReformPoliceNG in Nigeria. At the same time, as a patriot, I am deeply concerned by the disruptions to the nation's safety, peace and productivity.
To build a nation, youth empowerment and youth development should be supported as a process where young people are encouraged to take charge of their lives. They should be supported as they address their situation, transform their consciousness through their own beliefs, values, and attitudes, and take action in order to improve their lives. Youth empowerment is a gateway to much needed inter-generational equity, civic engagement and democracy building.
All they had were their voices, hopes, aspirations and patriotism. If their words were swords, then we know how frightening words must be for the current administration. How can an invitation to sit down at a table for proposed dialogue be so frightening as to be simultaneously accompanied by fatal aggression and bloodshed? Who called our army out to kill, maim and injure our nation’s youth – all of whom eagerly and enthusiastically give a year of their efforts and energies to our mandatory National Youth Service Corps.
It is a travesty, and a crime, that young Nigerians should be shot in cold blood simply because they empowered themselves to develop and declare five wishes to live, work and prosper with respect and rights, as occurred on 20th October, 2020. Silence is not an acceptable answer amidst the public calls for dialogue, and Nigeria must hold itself to account.
I urge Nigerian officials and the Nigerian military, to immediately cease the violent and in part fatal crackdown on peaceful protesters in Nigeria. I urge the Nigerian Police to redouble its discipline to safely secure lives and property. My heart is broken along with all those who have lost a loved one in the violence. I ask the world and the diplomatic community to stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and an end to injustice and corruption in our democracy.I thank the churches and religious leaders, who threw open their parish doors to offer our nation’s young citizens refuge and have sought to encourage the government to engage in a good-faith dialogue with civil society. It is time to address these long-standing grievances and work together for a just, inclusive, peaceful and united Nigeria. I thank the hospitals that have worked tirelessly and free of charge to do what they could to treat the gunshot wounds many young people had. It was an act of profound solidarity at a time when our nation’s officials abandoned our young. For the blood of Nigeria’s young citizens that has been spilled, for daring to raise their voices to peacefully demand a better future of inter-generational equity and accountability for all, we must do our utmost to ensure that their blood was not shed in vain. Our nation just celebrated 60 years of independence, autonomy, agency and governance. We remain in measured hope as we pray that our young citizens continue to surpass us in their achievements, and we will not forget.
FROM October 15th, 2020
FROM October 12th, 2020
The anguished scenes coming from our beloved nation Nigeria, of peaceful young protesters being forcefully dispersed, arrested and even injured and killed, are cause for sobering concern, even as many have noted the announcement that the SARS is to be immediately disbanded. The scenes speak to the state of the nation's wellbeing, and what affects one citizen, affects us all. The Economic and Social Research Council, which supports police reform in Nigeria, has assessed that between 2015 and 2019, over 40,000 lives were lost to violent crime, civil unrest and banditry, over 1,000 police officers died or were missing in the line of duty, over N600 billion Naira is estimated to have been lost to violent unrest and crime, while thousands of complaints have been filed to and by the police. Among those is a complaint regarding the molestation of a group of 70 women alleged to be sex-workers in Abuja in 2018 and 2019. That these women were treated by the authorities as less than human is at once a grave offense to their dignity and at the same time, an all-too-common occurrence. Our commitments and endorsement of United Nations Resolution 1325 specifically call for a reduction on violence against the female gender particularly because it is ultimately women and girls who bear the brunt in conflict. That our police system so blatantly flies in the face of internationally recognised orders that promote the healthy development of a country is antithetical to its purpose and existentially damaging to our nation's progress. It is poignant that yesterday was International Day of the Girl, and it was notable that I saw images of steadfast female activist Aisha Yesufu insist on social justice, and so many other young women rising to provide representation and relief. I see hope and practical expressions of loyalty to our nation's ideals in our women and youth. Our young citizens have made five requests of our nation's leaders:
FROM October 11th, 2020
FROM October 5th, 2020
This weekend, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa's MamaCare Antenatal & Postnatal Education Program's Whatsapp Maternity Support had the honour to be featured in British Vogue Magazine's Forces For Change October Edition about their work reaching every last mile to care and counsel mums, babies, and their families. I am so proud of their embracing the promise of technology to democratize access to accurate information from conception and the cradle, to age. MamaCare’s WhatsApp world is far from your typical online talkfest. It’s a safe space for pregnant women and new mums in Nigeria to connect, commiserate, congratulate, and voice their honest concerns — including the stuff deemed uncomfortable or taboo — knowing they can count on getting a prompt, accurate response in return. Our midwives, sometimes referred to endearingly as “Mama” by their group members, field questions about everything from breast feeding and nutrition to pregnancy sex and postpartum spotting. By harnessing the power of digital communication I believe that MamaCare will amplify its impact. What’s currently reaching 8,000 mothers a month, can soon evolve into well over 200,000. And with about seven million babies born in Nigeria each year and our goal of providing every single one of them and their families with a safe delivery and quality care, the new WBFA chatbot will be a major step in fast-tracking that ambition. Our tech is going to underpin our frontline. We want to be able to deliver lessons, immunisation reminders, nutrition advice, all by WhatsApp. If something as obtainable as WhatsApp has the capacity to improve medical outcomes for Nigeria’s most disadvantaged women through the diffusion of reliable information, then the world might not be as far from widespread healthcare reform as we once thought. As the developers of a wide range of home and health facilities based health records, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa believes that the role of data collation and analysis is crucial to the evolution of egalitarian healthcare systems. When we’re at a crossroads and we’re not sure what to do, data, if it’s openly and freely available, can lead us forward, hovwever we can’t access data if we’re not accessing the promise and realities of technology. I’m hoping that the WBFA’s use of technology will add this extra layer to all of our programming, and democratise it. Read more about my Forces For Change interview: WhatsApp Is The Key To Democratising Global Healthcare>>
FROM October 1st, 2020
During my childhood in the 1960's, I remember singing our Independence Anthem confidently in the affirmation that though our tribes and tongues may differ, we stand in brotherhood, proud to serve our sovereign motherland. Our flag is a symbol that truth and justice should reign, and our collective dream of being able to hand on to our children, a banner without stain, as we prayed to the Lord of all creation to grant our request to help us build a nation where no man would be oppressed, and so with peace and unity, Nigeria would be blessed. Nigeria is 60 today, and we have much to celebrate: our indomitable spirit, our endurance, fortitude and resilience - and our hard earned unity. We have an unquenching optimism for progress, and I know that my motherland has come a long way from Independence Day on 1st October 1960 and the vision of our founding fathers till today. Reflecting on our nascent years I can declare that Nigeria was indeed blessed, albeit simply, with abundant natural resources to grow a healthy population and prosperous future for all. At the same time, agitation for equitable management of our abundant natural resources, and the resulting humanitarian crisis directed our first experiences of multilateralism. International donor agencies arrived to assist the suffering and displaced victims of our civil war, as the nation strove to heal its wounds. The multilateral agencies remain with us today, implementing key services towards the sustainable development goals, working alongside national and frontline organisations. In those early formative years, lacking encounters with the basic day-to-day development challenges that shape creative public policy, our youthful nation paid little intentional and deliberate attention to the status of women and girls. We were so busy building our national unity, which at times was imperiled, that it didn’t occur to us to be intentional in our support for young women and girls to rise, even though culturally we have always revered and respected matriarchs and motherhood. This dichotomy has contributed to shaping some of the most dire realities of not meeting the needs of our women and girls that we as a nation face and experience today, where despite 50% of the electorate being women, the male gender occupies a disproportionate amount of cross-sectoral leadership positions.
The problems we face as a nation are a manifestation of the way in which we built our country, but today, at 60, and surely matured, we have an opportunity to catalyse an inclusive and cohesive course correction. We are centred on reiterating the national call to arise and serve our fatherland with love, strength and faith. We must reiterate that the labour of our heroes’ past shall never be in vain, and to serve our peoples with heart and might: one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity - to reach every last mile.
Right now, Nigeria’s Covid-19 deaths are comparatively low, and our nation’s endurance is high and strong; to me, possibly the product of a fortuitous resilience shaped by our long epidemiological history. However it is clear that the race to combat, contain and control Covid-19 is a marathon and not a sprint. According to The Economist’s Covid Collective Report, states like Nigeria are at risk of being “disproportionately affected because they have the least resources and infrastructure to grapple with the pandemic’s dire health and economic repercussions.” While richer countries are able to do more testing and prepare economic safeguards and recovery, Nigeria has recorded fewer tests per thousand people and has fewer resources to plan recovery. Examples of collaboration among scientists, however, show that models for better cooperation are possible, and indeed a timely focus on home-grown research and development from Nigeria may yet have much to teach the world. Stronger frameworks and mechanisms for international cooperation are required to mitigate the adverse effects on lives and livelihoods globally, and in fragile settings in particular. The fact that 172 countries globally are engaged in discussions to participate in COVAX – a Covid-19 vaccine global access facility – demonstrates just how powerful global cooperation can be in finding collective solutions to collective problems. On our 60th celebration of independence, we reaffirm our patriotic call to direct our noble cause: that our leaders are guided right, our youth are helped to know the truth, grow in love and honesty, living just and true, attain great and lofty heights, to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign, a pledge to the progress of our nation. But we cannot deny that Covid-19 has laid bare fissures in the multilateral system with far-reaching implications. From climate change to economic recessions, geopolitical tensions to AI disruption, truly global challenges are only going to become more frequent in our increasingly-interdependent world. Every country is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain thus we know that the gaps in domestic and international safety nets are not just a threat to the world’s vulnerable populations but also to the functioning of the global economy and society as a whole. As we celebrate the transformative power of patriotism, we must remember that no nation thrives entirely alone, and should work towards reviving multilateralism’s promise to ‘leave no one behind’ with particular focus on the effect of the pandemic on our most vulnerable women and girls. With the pandemic upending the world’s structural norms, Nigeria has an opportunity to come out of this dark time with a new energy based on the evidence of what works—and what does not work— to achieve our goals sustainably and for all. To meet the challenges of the 21st century, each and every one of us as individuals, along with our national governments, multilateral actors and humanitarian leaders must heed Covid-19’s wake-up call and unite to give multilateralism the “teeth” it needs to reform, replenish and strengthen national and global resilience both now and when the next crisis emerges, to ensure that our beloved nation Nigeria, and our people will survive, transform and thrive.
FROM September 26th, 2020
FROM September 18th, 2020
FROM September 15th, 2020
I am deeply concerned by the recent findings that Nigeria has overtaken India as the world capital for under-five deaths, according to the UNICEF report 'Levels and Trends in Child Mortality,’ particularly as we had previously seen significant improvements in Nigeria between 1990 and 2015. This distressing news comes just as we congregate virtually this year for the United Nations General Assembly. The report compiles data spanning three decades from 1990 to 2019, and it reveals that 49% of all under-five deaths in 2019 occurred in just five countries: Nigeria, India, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia. It finds that Nigeria and India alone account for almost a third of the deaths, and what is evermore worrying is that it is clear that there is a strong potential of a continued mortality crisis in 2020 with the additional strain of the coronavirus pandemic.
FROM September 11th, 2020
This week, my Wellbeing Foundation Africa's partners at Amref Health Africa led an excellent session - "A Health Accountability Framework, Holding Governments Accountable for their Health Commitments” . I warmly welcomed the discussion of the importance of supporting strong accountability frameworks, such as the Right to Health Index, that can hold governments to account on their health commitments. The Right To Health Index is grounded in the recognition that health accountability needs to move away from using general statistics and focus instead on identifying specific indicators for use in human rights. In doing so, accountability frameworks can facilitate the realization of health as a human right and universal health coverage for all. Health as a human right has always been central to The Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s work, particularly the infusion of poverty alleviation, rights and gender-based programming into the WBFA's Alaafia Universal Health Coverage Scheme Fund in partnership with the PharmAccess Foundation and Hygeia Community Health Plan. The Fund, supported the Kwara State Health Insurance Scheme established since 2007 by advocating for the 2012 and 2017 enabling state health insurance legislation, and by directly providing yearly capacitation fees for 5000 pregnant and newly delivered women, as well as adolescents, people living with HIV/AIDS, and elderly beneficiaries annually, within it's over 100,000 enrollees from 2015 onwards. Certainly, this availability of quality affordable care has contributed in no small measure to Kwara State maintaining its status as the state with the lowest maternal and under-5 mortality in Nigeria, at a time when the nation has been confronted with the unfortunate fact of having overtaken India as having the highest and worst preventable deaths of mothers and their young children globally - underscoring the importance of sustaining focused efforts across all 36 states of the federation to arrest this devastating trend of neglect. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVfErQTKH6Y&feature=youtu.be H.E. Senator Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, MBBS, CON, 13th President of the Senate and Chair, 8th Session National Assembly, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Former Kwara State Governor and Chair, Nigeria Governors Forum, at the Scale Up Ceremony of Kwara Community Health Insurance Scheme, Afon, Kwara State, 2009 I was also delighted to learn this week that the health insurance scheme has been recently re-launched with a target of 10,000 more mandatory enrollees. I heartily commend the PharmAccess Foundation and other partners for their focused tenacity in ensuring that the exemplary health insurance-driven universal health coverage model that all partners worked so hard to create and innovate, driven by the mutual vision of H.E Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki and the late acclaimed global health expert and medical research scientist Joep Lange to render affordable quality health care for all will continue to support and benefit many more people into the future. [caption id="attachment_1199" align="aligncenter" width="603"] Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Hygeia Community Health Plan, Pharmaccess Foundation, World Bank Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Health at Alaafia Universal Health Care Scheme Fund Conclusion Breakfast Meeting, Abuja, Nigeria, January 2017[/caption]
FROM September 2nd, 2020
FROM August 25th, 2020
FROM August 11th, 2020
FROM July 22nd, 2020
I am overjoyed to receive a photo and update from a Wellbeing Africa Foundation mum today, and I must share the story.In 2017, Mrs O was pregnant with triplets, and had been a student of my #Mamacare360 program. She needed, but couldn't afford a Caesarean, and the hospital just kept her waiting. The hospital was ready to abandon them. I have always advocated for socio-economic birth preparedness within universal health coverage, but birth waits for no-one, so I dashed there to help immediately. That's because a sound anti-poverty strategy should not only aim to increase incomes, but also provide the poor with a variety of assets — personal, social, political and environmental to help them overcome the myriad of challenging circumstances. Sometimes being there for the right person, with the right help, at the right place, can change a life (or in this case, three more lives) way beyond the original aim of poverty alleviation. Here is a photo of the absolutely beautiful triplets today: they have grown so big and strong, and it has made a sunny day today even brighter. [caption id="attachment_1178" align="alignnone" width="300"] The triplets, 2020[/caption]
FROM July 21st, 2020
A few weeks ago, I read an absolutely harrowing story of abuse in Akwuke, near Enugu City, Nigeria, and it has been on my mind ever since. I am consumed by the fact that its graphic nature and intimate impact were entirely preventable, if only the right systems were in place.
Early in June, a wife and mother of two young boys—we will call her Mrs. K—asked her husband for money to prepare food for the family. He had a history of violence, and he lashed out about the inquiry: when she proceeded to make pap for her 3-month-old baby, he doused her breasts in boiling water. She reacted in the throes of excruciating pain, and also unable to breastfeed her baby. The Women’s Aid Collective (WACOL) posted the story on Twitter, including graphic photos that I am choosing not to continue to publicise. WACOL has confirmed that the husband is now in police custody, but the psychological, emotional and physical damage to Mrs. K and her children has been done, and it is on us to use this case as a calling to rethink how we are handling the scourge of domestic violence in Nigeria.
The story is the horrific climax of a pattern that we know to be true when it comes to domestic violence: notable triggering factors for the husband’s actions in this case are concerns about money, food, and the fact that Mrs. K was exercising her personal autonomy—through breastfeeding the baby. We know firstly that domestic violence is rising due to pressures about money amidst the pandemic; secondly, research also shows that male partners who are inclined to violence increase aggression during pregnancy and after birth, and thirdly, we know that jealousy (in this case, about feeding the baby) can be a trigger for men inclined to violence.
While the global community is aware of these factors, limited access to reporting pathways means local organisations weren’t able to shield Mrs. K before the abuse was so great that it required extreme intervention. Her case makes evident that the reporting of incidents of intimate nature, such as sexual assault and domestic violence, necessitates the transfer of Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC) from police stations to hospitals.
The Nigerian police force is culturally hyper-masculine and male-dominated, and Nigerians are 20 times more likely to be killed by the police than by terrorists. It is obvious that an aggressive and masculine environment in a conservative cultural setting is not a safe space for vulnerable women to share intimate stories about private parts of their body. In fact, a police station in Nigeria could be the worst place I could think of for a woman to go to seek relief. That’s why I’ve begun reaching out to call for a timely policy shift, nationally, to shift SARCs to hospitals: the hospitals would assume locus as expert witnesses, and bear the formal responsibility for reporting and advising the police on sexual and domestic violence cases. In turn, the idea is that injured women, or women in danger would feel more comfortable seeking treatment about intimate issues than in a police station. They would be treated for their ailments, and hospital staff would assume the responsibility for translating actionable items to the police. Like any crime, the prospect of swift justice, would also serve as a deterrent, and thus a very timely tool in the strategy to effect preventive social behavioural change.
This call to action is about ensuring we have the right systems in place to safeguard and ultimately empower vulnerable women with the public resources we have available. It is said that sexual and gender based violence is within the lived experience of almost half of our women and girls; equipping health personnel with specialist SGBV SARC and mental health training is both prerequisite, and an imperative.
At the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, we have long offered women attending our health facility based Mamacare antenatal and postnatal sessions a safe space, and a curriculum to discuss concerns, and if needed, report their worries. Nigeria’s updated National Gender Policy should take a whole-family, socio-economic and mental health approach to tackling the scourge of domestic violence; and one way we can start is by ensuring the safe haven of refuge, of a kind of solace: a comfortable environment for vulnerable women to give forensic evidence, find relief, and heal. We must do it for Mrs. K.
FROM July 14th, 2020
I thoroughly enjoyed kick-starting the new week by participating at the UN High-level Political Forum side event entitled, "From Page to Action: Accountability for the Furthest Left behind in COVID-19 & Beyond.” The conversation was strong, timely and direct, as well as being a fantastic way to launch the 2020 Report of the UN Secretary-General’s Independent Accountability Panel for Every Woman Every Child. Co-hosted by the Governments of Japan, South Africa, and Georgia and co-organized by the Every Woman Every Child Secretariat, the Independent Accountability Panel (IAP), International Health Partnership for UHC 2030 (UHC2030), and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), I appreciated the opportunity of knowledge sharing to deepen the efforts and engagement of my organisations, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, and Wellbeing For Women Youth Voices towards promoting institutional accountability at national, regional and global policy tiers. As we herald the new commitments targeted at mitigating the disruptions of the Sars-Cov2 pandemic in expectation of focused investments, we are once again reminded that the initiation, solution and fiscal appropriations to drive the delivery and accountability of truly accessible health for all must be embraced and fall within the remits of local and national parliaments. Today, and every day, I particularly commend the WHO Partnership for Maternal Newborn And Child Health PMNCH's ongoing strong collaboration with the International Parliamentary Union IPU, as signalled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union's historic first resolution towards Universal Health Coverage in 2019, substantiating global approaches to recordkeeping. I was particularly enthused by contributions from a number of high-level speakers and leading voices for the delivery of Universal Health Coverage, namely, H.E. Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa; President of South Africa; Chairperson of the African Union, Mr. Shinichi Kitaoka; President, Japan International Cooperation Agency JICA, Ms. Joy Phumaphi, Co-Chair, Independent Accountability Panel for Every Woman Every Child, Mr. Elhadj As Sy; Chair of the Board, Kofi Annan Foundation, Ms. Gabriela Cuevas Barron, President, Inter-Parliamentary Union, Dr. Khuất Thị Hải Oanh; Civil Society Engagement Mechanism, UHC2030, Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, UNFPA, H.E. Mr. Kaha Imnadze; Permanent Representative of Georgia to the UN, H.E. Ms. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés; Member, UHC Movement Political Advisory Panel, UHC2030, Ms. Evalin Karijo; Project Director, Youth in Action, Amref Health Africa, Mr. Peter MacDougall, Assistant Deputy Minister of Global Issues and Development, Global Affairs Canada, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; Director-General, WHO; Chair, H6 Partnership, Rt. Hon. Helen Clark, Former Prime Minister, New Zealand; Board Chair, PMNCH, and of course, Ms. Gillian Tett; Chair of the Editorial Board & Editor-at-Large (US), The Financial Times (Moderator), alongside so many EWEC partners and frontline organisations. But as the COVID-19 pandemic’s grip on the world shows no immediate signs of loosening, organisations must therefore acclimatise effectively, by integrating the dual-mindset towards technology, in equipping their workforces and ensuring that the dissemination of information – particularly pertaining to health - remains both accurate and accessible. By making this part of an ongoing global transition a priority, we will see to it that society’s most vulnerable individuals are able to continue accessing the information and services which remain a key component in their livelihood. As Nigeria, seeks to mitigate the regrettable and inexcusable reputational damage that recent appalling breaches in cybersecurity have caused, we must also underscore the vital role that technologically supported security platforms play in enabling for remote operations and a continued key health services to be delivered when implemented effectively. Invoking cybersecurity measures have been and continue to constitute a key component in ensuring that accurate health information is circulated worldwide, particularly during this Covid-19 pandemic. We must therefore support all initiatives and efforts in the direction of this construct remaining a top global priority.
FROM July 6th, 2020
For many years, the welcomed priority, purpose and daily-sensitised goal for Women and Girls, Families and Communities - nationally and across our continent as a whole - has been to solidly create, inform, empower and manifest a true demonstration of equality, access and social responsibility regarding their health, their education and the equitable opportunities afforded to assure and improve basic wellbeing, from birth to age. Through the continued collaborative efforts of our nation’s healthcare professionals, researchers, thought-leaders, community volunteers and the service users themselves, Nigeria had long subscribed to the notion of investing in Universal Basic Education. However, the first time that citizens experienced the concrete benefit of an intentional basic or primary public health assistance was in 2018, when Nigeria’s 8th National Assembly appropriated the Basic Health Care Provision Fund – a pinnacle moment in the redemption of the 2001 Abuja Declaration towards achieving Universal Health Coverage. Today, that resounding national applause remains of strong resonance to the Joint Civil Society Organisations Primary Healthcare Revitalisation Support Group to the Eighth National Assembly, which I had chaired. With that being said, a real sense of recurring readiness and receptiveness to campaigns, cultural change and the communication surrounding health and wellbeing as a whole remains palpably evident, statistically proven and collectively celebrated by many – both nationally, and worldwide, and is categorised amongst what still remains a series of promising results acquired through WBFA’s advocacy and partnership efforts with policy-makers and parliamentarians worldwide. In addition, and perhaps more pertinently given the progression of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, my morale embodies the significance and importance of global partnership interventions such as that of the Global Financing Facility and the Global Citizen Fund. Their commitment to amplifying the importance of collective efforts in acquiring globally accessible health tools and resources during the pandemic, brings us all one step closer to the concept of continuity of services becoming a very possible reality. As, the Global Financing Facility announced its predictions last week, it conveyed a new set of commitments aimed at mitigating the disruption of services to a number of the countries and global communities most in need. GFF forecasts a possible 18% increase in child mortality, and a 9% increase in maternal mortality across Nigeria over the next year as a direct result of essential health services becoming fragmented during this COVID-19 pandemic. We had only recently learnt the surprising news that Nigeria's 9th National Assembly had predicted a reduction in the value of the primary healthcare and basic education budgets, which as unaddressed to date – reflect as cuts. However, as 30th June marked the International Day of Parliamentarianism, I was also caused to reflect upon the OECD’s interpretations of the role of parliaments during the COVID-19 crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic is posing threats not only to human health and life, but also to people’s socio-economic well-being and countries’ economic growth. According to the OECD, the global economy is currently suffering its deepest recession since the Great Depression in the 1930s. One of the many visible issues of the current pandemic is the rampant unemployment and loss of income. As well as the increase in poverty, it could impede people from accessing basic services due to unaffordability and inaccessibility. It is estimated that 2.9-5.2 million people could lose their jobs in Indonesia as a result of this global health crisis. Clearly the pandemic is heightening inequality and inequity among citizens as well as within the countries themselves. Yet, presently, the role of parliament is more relevant today than it has been ever before. Parliaments can propose and adopt necessary laws to assist their respective governments in intercepting and tackling COVID-19 and its adverse impacts. Further, parliaments can oversee the expenditure of the public funds related to COVID-19. It is crucial to ensure that the funds are allocated appropriately, and that all individuals receive fair distribution of strategically proposed COVID-19 containment measures. In responding to the COVID-19 crisis, parliaments in Nigeria, and around the world have also established designated Task Forces for COVID-19, aiming to provide assistance and support in the form of medical equipment and personal protective equipment to hospitals and community health centres, in a globally observed and commended response. Every state has different capacities and resources to counter the challenges, whether it is providing and maintaining optimal and accessible healthcare, upholding a functioning and thriving society or managing the state of the global economic. Therefore, international co-operation is imperative, in order to ensure that states - especially within low- to middle-income countries, are able to thrive in this moment of crisis, and eliminate their obstacles in tackling COVID-19. Not surprisingly, three weeks ago, I had joined a high-level discussion on how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic perpetuates the pressing need to implement Universal Health Care. In welcoming the Africa Leads UHC One By One 2030 Report, and in the new Unite For Action global commitments, I fully agreed that primary health care must cover the breadth of the journey from hospital to hut in communities, and improve the social determinants of all those living and working therein. We should not wait to improve the situation until, God forbid, the next crisis occurs. We have to ensure that our nations’ socio-economic development would not leave anyone behind, as envisaged by the 2030 Agenda. In that regard, every decision, law and regulation made must also be based on principles of equality, participation, non-discrimination, accountability and transparency. I have urged all African Leaders to reinforce and reconfigure their commitments to the 2001 Abuja Declarations in order to exceed the minimum pledged 15% of respective Consolidated Revenue Funds, if we are indeed to fulfil our mantra’s of Africa Rising – to match these global commitments with clear manifestation of a sense and purpose, of evidenced intention, to put our people first, justifying continued global partnerships and multi-lateral assistance. As we face the prospect of reinstating routine primary health and education services that were so destructively interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, it is clear that Africa needs to factor in the replenishment and reinforcement of investments in both primary health care, and primary education. In doing so, they will build resilience to emerge from the pandemic in a stronger position than before. We must ensure that our weakest frontline services can deliver a healthier, better and stronger educated future for all. As we herald the new commitments targeted at mitigating the disruptions of the Sars-Cov2 pandemic, in expectation of focused investments we are reminded then, that the initiation, solution and budgetary injection must primarily derive from the pots that sit within local parliaments, while recalling that in fact, in 2019, the Inter-Parliamentary Union did actively play its part in passing its historic first resolution towards universal health coverage, substantiating global approaches to recordkeeping. Parliaments themselves should also intensify this co-operation and share their best practices, experiences and challenges in dealing with the COVID-19. International organisations such as the OECD and its Global Parliamentary Network have a pivotal role to play during these unprecedented times. They help to facilitate pertinent policy dialogues on important socio-economic matters and provide us with advice and recommendations, so that parliaments can use them as guidelines to improve the situation and/or propose to its governments. To use the example of the Indonesian Parliament view that the implementation and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be postponed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, I restate the fact that the SDGs should be the measure for parliaments to prevent trade-offs in this moment of crisis, for example, between the economy and health, in any laws or programmes. It is also important to emphasise that the entire Indonesian House of Representatives, including those in the commissions, are working to support the implementation and achievement of the SDGs, supporting resolutions relevant to SDGs and that are in the public interest. This is also the time for us as Nigerians, and as Africans, to open our eyes and realise the importance of improving individuals' social and economic rights – especially the poor and vulnerable – such as clean water and sanitation (SDG 6) and economic growth tied to decent work (SDG 8). It is clear that fighting COVID-19 requires people to have clean water and sanitation – and not everyone has access to it. Much of our nation’s willingness to learn, embrace and engage with the plethora of ongoing initiatives that have so positively contributed to the building and delivery of timely, appropriate and affordable care concepts and pathways in Nigeria today, is arguably attributable to the overarching and consistent primary theme of ‘accessibility’ these tremendous efforts were primarily built upon. A fearlessly competent, responsible and promising generation have successfully ensured that accessibility remains a true ethos and the pertinent undercurrent when shaping and delivering an intentional and undeniably imperative standard of care. Sadly, their efforts have now rather tragically arrived at a potential point of trepidation. These findings should fill every stakeholder with encouraging zeal, renewed passion and an inexplicable sense of determination to work towards establishing tangible, long-term solutions for this pandemic and beyond. We must continue forward – and ensure that a path towards the sustainable replenishment of much needed resources is assured. To date, the responses and levels of engagement from members of society coupled with repeated statistical confirmations of increased success following the introduction of a number of health and wellbeing initiatives, further echoes my sentiments and of many others. Now more than ever before, the nation requires a firm continuation of a well-functioning, culturally and economically appropriate primary health and basic education system – one which must remain accessible to all and for all, in all its entirety. With this being said then, the most poignant way of ensuring that this can and should be made possible, is to maintain the level of financial input that 9th NASS initially committed to and maintained in the lead up to this unfortunate outcome. In light of the recent COVID-19 outbreak, and while duly and empathetically acknowledging the economical setbacks that such a global pandemic has birthed, it is with the greatest of respect, care, honour, but also pride for all that we as a nation have achieved, that I make mention of this decision being a very important one. From our global counterparts and stakeholders, right through to a growing community of invested and daily-committed healthcare and education facilitators here in our nation of Nigeria, the transitions and great strides made and being reflected by way of national and international policy, practice and (societal) position are going from strength to strength. Many of you have responsibly embarked on a lifelong journey which has continuously proven to be of great societal, medical and generational benefit. This is particularly evident statistically. With health, as with education, the access to upholding and maintaining it, and human engagement really do go hand in hand: the intentional attitude and efforts our nation employs daily in a bid to truly care, educate and continue advocating for a significantly positive quality of life for all, is in actual fact, entirely dependent on the resources being made available to professionals and those within their care. Access to affordable healthcare and education then, should be a precise and continuous embodiment of the primary intention behind the service and its delivery. I believe that the truest way in which we can continue to facilitate, impact and inform attitudes and approaches to healthcare and education in our nation, in a way that evidently works well, is to truly uphold our level of (physical and financial) input. Only then, can we truly make it holistically accessible. Last week, I signed my name to join the #GlobalGoalUnite call for urgent investments and actions. Join me, by signing the campaign here, too: www.globalcitizen.org
FROM June 20th, 2020
There are more displaced peoples in Nigeria—over two million—than the populations of Ilorin, Abuja and even Benin City. The scale of this situation in Nigeria is a tragedy for our people and our economy. At home in Nigeria, the conditions being faced by our population of concern are an increased cause for alarm and focused action within our COVID-19 response strategies – Nigeria is facing immense humanitarian and protection challenges due to the ongoing insurgency in the North East. The conflict has caused grave human rights violations, impacting particularly on the most vulnerable civilians. According to the UNHCR, as of May 2020, there are 2,046,604 internally displaced persons in the Northeast region, with 90% of the displacements in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. Outside of the Northeast an estimated 578,119 people are displaced due to banditry and farmer-herders conflict. There are 61,361 registered refugees and asylum seekers as of April 2020, with 60% located in Cross Rivers, 21% in Taraba, 12% in Benue and 6% registered in Lagos whom are classified as urban refugees and asylum seekers. There are a further 292,513 Nigerian Refugees in our neighbouring countries of Niger (55%), Cameroon (40%), and Chad (5%). View the map>> In summary, as of May this year, the total number of people attributed to Nigeria’s existing population of concern stood at 2,107,965. More than 61,000 were registered as refugees and asylum seekers, and the significant remainder originating from neighbouring nations were identified as internally displaced persons (IDP). The spectrum of challenges that refugees and displaced persons face is very broad: they may be traumatised, having lost homes, livelihoods and identities. However, when the host communities have strong systems in place, the suffering is mitigated, and the road to recovery can begin. I have always felt that refugees should have health rights guaranteed in any host location, and health-enhanced certifiable identities. The United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey support the health of refugees effectively, with the help of the World Health Organisation, which works closely with government health departments to provide culturally and linguistically sensitive health services to refugees. That’s why in February I was pleased to attend the launch of the Lancet Migration, a collaboration of researchers in migration and health who are building evidence to drive policy change in this area. I’ve been involved with helping to provide aid to many refugee camps in Northern Nigeria, and I’ve come to the understanding that ensuring health care should be standard in supporting the dignity of displaced persona. On World Refugee Day today, I commit to working with Lancet Migration, and call for attention on the rights of refugees in relation to accessibility to health care.
FROM June 1st, 2020
This year marked the start of the United Nations' Decade of Delivery, where we were promised that things would change for the empowerment of women and girls. Armed with research to prove how much better off our world would be with the rights of women and girls realised, we in the global advocacy community declared that it is well past time to start living in a gender equal reality.
FROM May 29th, 2020
The recent stories about violent police killings of African Americans are pulling at my heartstrings. My expertise is in child and maternal health and wellbeing in Africa, and police brutality in the United States may seem like it is 6,218 miles (the distance from Lagos to Minneapolis) away from my wheelhouse. But that would be denying the reality that we Africans are a global community united by the colour of our skin and ancestries that have been altered by systems of oppression that have spanned and scrambled our societies for generations, and which we have, collectively and individually, climbed to overcome.
FROM May 26th, 2020
As we mark Africa Day, I am encouraged by the milestones we have achieved, standing together as one united Africa, towards providing equity in health access since the Alma Ata declaration of 1978. Personally, a high point for Nigeria was in 2018 when Nigeria's National Assembly, chaired by my husband H.E. Dr Bukola Saraki MBBS, CON, helped establish the Basic Health Care Provision Fund. It was a key and catalytic step towards achieving Universal Health Coverage for our citizens. As the coronavirus pandemic puts health systems to unprecedented tests, I call on our African leaders, of governments, of policies, and of innovative actions, to rise to the challenge of the #AfricaWeWant. We must accelerate investments and actions to meet the health needs of our citizens by strengthening primary health care services with efficient diagnostics, referrals and treatment. Let's walk the talk for primary health care and wellbeing. As we stand together in rallying the right resources to combat COVID-19, I also call for the reinforcement and replenishment of the 2001 Abuja Declaration—a pledge made by the African Union, standing as one, promising to increase their health budget to at least 15% of the state's annual budget. The World Health Organisation reported in 2010 that only one African country had reached that target. Today in 2020, we must replenish and reinforce those promises to ensure that every citizen can access an efficient system of quality health.
FROM May 20th, 2020
During a normal year I would be traveling to the World Health Assembly this week, but this year I joined state leaders and world-renowned experts virtually from our homes, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the spirit is evident: global collaboration on the state of our world’s health has never in our lifetime been more necessary.
FROM May 8th, 2020
I am excited to announce that Wellbeing Foundation Africa is partnering with U.S.-based company Fortify to address iron deficiency: the major underlying cause of maternal deaths during childbirth in developing countries. I started working on improving iron deficiency in Nigeria in 2014 with a programme called Green Food Steps. I worked with Unilever’s biggest brand Knorr to educate women and daughters to practice new, nutritious cooking habits. But when I met the Fortify team to talk about a partnership last year, I was struck by how elegant yet practical a solution they have for iron deficiency anemia: they help add iron to ingredients that make up everyday meals—such as tomato paste. Tomato paste is already built into the food supply, it’s a big part of the meals every African eats; that’s why they’ve worked to produce 20 million sachets of iron-fortified tomato paste varieties in Nigeria monthly. Implementing more iron in our food staples is not just a compassionate move to improve maternal health: it’s economically beneficial, too. According to the World Health Organization, timely treatment of iron deficiency anemia can ultimately raise national productivity levels by as much as 20%. That’s why I’m so excited to engage First Ladies and women leaders—because of the impact they bring to women, families and communities in improving maternal health outcomes—but also policymakers across Africa to accelerate efforts to eradicate iron deficiency. Read more on Wellbeing Africa.
FROM May 4th, 2020
FROM April 28th, 2020
Together, we are facing a global health crisis. Each day, as the death toll due to COVID-19 rises, people in governments, institutions, hospitals, communities and households around the world are having to navigate unprecedented sacrifice and hardship – making decisions with profound effects on their lives and livelihoods. As a collective network of girls, women, advocates, and allies working in global development, we stand together to encourage global collaboration to combat COVID-19. Only by working together can we ensure that no one is left behind in our response to the pandemic. Our focus now must be on supporting vulnerable communities and the most vulnerable people within our communities – in the spirit of solidarity, but also for our own protection. This includes girls and women who are now at a higher risk of gender-based violence and rights abuses, and at-risk groups (including people who have disabilities or identify as LGBTQIA) who are being targeted or are unable to access routine services. At a time of ever-increasing social distancing, there has never been a more crucial need for community and selfless leadership. The World Health Organization’s continued focus on saving lives and supporting and protecting the most vulnerable of us will play a pivotal role in our recovery. Now more than ever, countries need to unite behind a strong WHO – sharing knowledge, strategy, technical resources and financial investment to defeat the global threat we all face. We must make no concessions for blame, politicisation or racism in developing an inclusive and effective solution to this crisis. Across the world, we see the power of community and shared resources, as individuals step forward to support each other. Our heroes – the predominantly-female health workforce, working day and night to serve our communities and unite us – have demonstrated that cooperation is to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. In such challenging times, it is crucial that we overcome any efforts to divide us. Join us by signing on
FROM April 15th, 2020
FROM April 15th, 2020
The world is hurting, and we need the WHO now more than ever before. Millions are suffering and misinformation is spreading, with fear and even racism impeding mechanisms for an effective response. Countries and communities are acting both together and apart. Right now, every community needs information based strictly in science and supported with the benefit of a global perspective. The world needs a well-functioning global organization designed to facilitate international coordination. We need the WHO, our standard-bearer in unprecedented times for an unprecedented virus. The pandemic is a stark reminder that humans are connected, and that what happens in one country can impact the everyday lives, social fabrics and economies of countries far away. Human connectivity holds power: the positive impact of our collective will to physically distance from one another alone shows what power we hold. Guided by the heart beat of world health—the WHO—together we have pulled resources, research, and we have made a global effort to benefit the health of all of us. We are grateful for those who have recovered due to the efforts of indefatigable health workers who have detected, tracked, traced and treated the affected, even as we have mourned the lives and livelihoods that we have lost. Together we must continue to marshal support to combat this virus. We hold the hope for better days ahead.
FROM March 25th, 2020
World Tuberculosis Day 2020 – It Is Crucial To Deepen TB Advocacy And Actions To Ensure Tuberculosis Does Not Become Totally Invisible During The COVID-19 Pandemic – Toyin Saraki, Founder, Wellbeing Foundation Africa I was recently following the research findings of Madhukar Pai, Canada Research Chair of Epidemiology and Global Health at McGill University, Montreal Canada, where he called for a damage control plan for tuberculosis during the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. As the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the world, the global health community working to fight TB have growing anxiety about what this pandemic will do to a much older infectious killer - tuberculosis (TB). We know from the Ebola experience that epidemics can disrupt even basic services such as routine immunization. No doubt, COVID-19 will adversely affect all routine health services everywhere. But TB services is might be one of the biggest casualties. Why? Even before COVID-19, TB had a notorious track record as a ‘Captain of the Men of Death’. TB kills 4000 people each day, and 1.5 million people each year. TB is the leading killer of people living with HIV/AIDS. An estimated 10 million people developed TB in 2018, and nearly half a million people developed drug-resistant TB (DR-TB). COVID-19 is a crisis of social solidarity and social investment. This applies to TB as well. It is crucial to deepen TB advocacy and actions to make sure TB does not become completely invisible during the COVID-19 pandemic. People are leaving no stone unturned to stop the coronavirus pandemic. If we show even half of this dedication towards ending TB, we can stop millions from dying from a preventable and curable disease. I stand in solidarity with the Stop TB community as we support people affected by COVID-19. This World TB Day we support the fight against the new pandemic, share our lessons, experiences and tools so that united we can defeat it. We want to remind global leaders the urgency to invest in better and more resilient health systems, today more than ever we realise the need to end endemics like TB or COVID-19. To fight COVID19, we can use the tools needed to End TB: infection control, artificial intelligence, x-rays, contact tracing, telemedicine and psycho-social support. Years of under-investment made tuberculosis and its drug resistant forms the biggest infectious disease killer with over 4000 deaths per day. We can’t afford to repeat these mistakes and be unprepared for pandemics like COVID19. Most TB survivors have gone through the isolation, fear, discrimination and stigma that we are facing with COVID 19. Let’s hear their voices and learn resilience from them. It’s Time To End TB. It’s time to recognize that people with #TB are vulnerable to COVID19, including prisoners, migrants, people living with #HIV, and those who are malnourished. Healthcare workers are at the centre of the fight against diseases such as tuberculosis or COVID-19 - While most of us are at home, social distancing, the health workers leave their houses and families to ensure that people with TB get diagnosed, treated and cured and also battle COVID-19. I appreciate and applaud their efforts as frontline health heroes. I join the Stop TB Partnership in calling on global leaders to join forces to protect people affected by TB and especially vulnerable populations from #COVID19. It’s time to ensure we #LeaveNoOneBehind #ItsTimeToEndTB
FROM February 9th, 2020
Along with the global health community, The Wellbeing Foundation Africa has taken note of the WHO declaration of a public health emergency of international concern over the global outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus. WHO has identified 13 top priority countries (Algeria, Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia) which either have direct links or a high volume of travel to China. “To ensure rapid detection of the novel coronavirus, it is important to have laboratories which can test samples and WHO is supporting countries to improve their testing capacity. Since this is a new virus, there are currently only two referral laboratories in the African region which have the reagents needed to conduct such tests." “However, reagent kits are being shipped to more than 20 other countries in the region, so diagnostic capacity is expected to increase over the coming days. Active screening at airports has been established in a majority of these countries and while they will be WHO first areas of focus, the organization will support all countries in the region in their preparation efforts" "It is critical that countries step up their readiness and in particular put in place effective screening mechanisms at airports and other major points of entry to ensure that the first cases are detected quickly” The Wellbeing Foundation Africa commends and thanks the thousands of courageous frontline heroes, the frontline health professionals who are working around the clock in affected regions to treat the sick, save lives and bring this outbreak under control. The Wellbeing Foundation Africa continues to advocate and urge, particularly in Nigeria which is currently responding to a Lassa Fever outbreak in over 11 states, that investment in a skilled and sustainable, locally led frontline health workforce able to detect, report and respond to threats and deliver quality health services including water, sanitation and hygiene essentials for infection prevention and control, is crucial to building health systems resilient to outbreak.